Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Do We Do It?

Now, now, get your mind out of the gutter. (Okay, yes, that's probably where it belongs when you're reading the blog of an erotic romance writer, but seriously, I don't talk about that particular it that much here! I save it for the books.)

No, today, I'm mulling about why writers write. More specifically, why I write. I've been asking myself the question a lot lately because, at the moment, I am not writing because I have to--at least not in any contractual sense. No one is breathing down my neck for this manuscript, and when it is done, there is no guarantee that anyone will be beating down my agent's door to buy it.

Some days, usually when the story refuses to bend to my will and the words are coming with great difficulty, writing really does seem like a colossal waste of time and effort. I'm not enjoying it, there's no assurance anyone but my CPs and my agent will ever read it, and there must be a thousand more immediately productive things I could be doing with my time.

And yet, I can't seem to stop. There's a drive, an urge to do it, even when it feels about as pleasurable as peeling my skin off, inch by excruciating inch.

My father (who wrote two novels and did lots of freelance nonfiction writing) used to say that he had to write. It wasn't something he did because he wanted to, but because he needed to. That's not to say wanting to was never part of the equation. After all, we need to eat to survive, but most of us enjoy our food, at least a significant proportion of the time.

All of that said, I know plenty of writers who claim no particular compulsion to write. They do it because they enjoy it and/or they make a living at it, and it's better than any other job they could be doing. And more power to them.

But for me, the compulsion is the thing that keeps me going even when it's rough, when the doubts set in. Because the doubts will set in. Is my hero really as hawt and sexy as my CP says? Is my heroine TSTL or just plain bitchy and unlikeable? Is my amazing and clever plot really stupid and boring? And the love scenes--are they sexy and erotic and emotionally engaging or just...meh? But I'll never know the answers unless I soldier on, so I'm glad that I can keep writing, even when it hurts.

YOUR TURN: What about you? If you write, why do you it? And if you don't, do you wonder why other people do? Or wish you could?


Moira Rogers - Bree said...

I am absolutely in the "need to" write camp. I wrote before I was interested in publication, and when Donna and I take breaks from writing for work, half the time we decide to write for fun. Because, well...we have to.

I don't know if I could do the write-for-work thing if I didn't have that compulsion. It's a brutal career and the doubts would smush me some days, I think, if it weren't for the fact that...well, I'd be doing it anyway. I can't help myself!

Jackie Barbosa said...

Bree, I totally agree about the brutality of publishing. To stick with it, you either have to get incredibly lucky right out of the gate or be a masochist who can't stop. I know which camp I fall in ;)!

Emma Petersen said...

I write because I absolutely have no choice but to. I can go days, weeks, months without it but then I just get overwhelmed with the need to. Seriously, I need it. It's something that is altogether mine. That's never let me down or asked for anything in return.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I've asked myself this question so many times over the years, I lost count. This morning, the short answer is: I don't know. I don't have to write the same way I have to eat. And yet, I have to - for some reason that eludes me this morning. Maybe I have to write because otherwise how would I get all these stories out of my head?